Emily Pauline Johnson (1861 – 1913)

Emily Pauline Johnson
Library and Archives Canada

Emily Pauline Johnson, also known by her Mohawk name Tekahionwake, was one of North America's most notable entertainers of the late 19th century. The daughter of a Mohawk chief and an English-born American woman, Johnson mainly wrote on First Nations culture and history, Canada and nature. She was a successful published poet and performed her poems with an actor's flair for theatricality and an orator's gift for public speaking. At her readings, Johnson presented herself as a Mohawk princess. She gained international fame, finding large audiences across North America and England with tours and presentations from 1892 to 1910. Despite living during a deeply racist period in Canadian history, Johnson took pride in her First Nations ancestry. Her pride in her First Nations ancestry still serves as an inspiration to Aboriginal poets, writers and artists.

Be strong, O paddle! be brave, canoe!
The reckless waves you must plunge into.
Reel, reel,
On your trembling keel,
But never a fear my craft will feel.
- “The Song My Paddle Sings”

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